There are many types of love to celebrate on Valentine’s Day and one of the most healthy forms of it is self-care and expression. This essay was written by Nadia Abou-Karr about her healing journey after sexual assault.
I Don’t Want to Say It: I Was Raped
By Nadia Abou-Karr
Two women I know are comforting each other in an online group we are part of and it annoys me. Why does she get to speak her truth and find solace, when my voice is so frozen? And why does she receive comfort when no one was there for me? I find myself getting jealous of them, sharing their pain publicly with one another when really it’s too scary to say the truth: I don’t want to say that I was raped.
I didn’t want to tell anyone because I thought it was my fault. I still somewhat thought it was my fault until a close friend told me she had felt the same way after she was raped. “But we know better,” she typed in her email to me. Yes, we do. We know better. And it doesn’t feel fair to keep it in any longer. Who do I owe my secrecy to? This secret is full of suffering and speaking it is so freeing, I have to try.
We spend our whole lives as young women being instructed on how to avoid rape, but when it does happen (more often by a friend or family member than a stranger), we are not protected by the community the way they say they would protect us. If someone says they were raped it brings up a million questions about what they were wearing, what they were doing there, why they put themselves in the situation. It is hard enough to talk about without that line of interrogation.
I had to learn to love myself, and forgive myself. Resisting the urge to blame myself for every bad decision that led up to that point, unburying myself from the shame and trauma covering my body and my mind, I made my way in the real world through the fog of all the damage. Dealing with the reality of what happened to me was so painful, but I found that when I opened up and sought support in my friends I was able to heal. Being honest was a form of loving myself. I found a way to forgive the first friend I told who turned it around on me, saying I “should have expected that.” I forgave her by realizing that no matter how harsh her words, the ones she spoke to herself must be a million times worse. I never want to be a person like my rapist, who hurts others and just takes what I want. But I have to be honest and admit that I have done things that hurt others, I have put my own needs and wants above others and I have done major damage in the lives of others. In my journey I learned that we are all One, and when we hurt another we hurt ourselves.
I would rather pretend it never happened, but I can’t. Time heals only in the sense that the triggers don’t come as often. But avoidance doesn’t mean acceptance and it doesn’t achieve the peace of mind I need. Healing means facing the trauma, realizations, and unanswered questions head on. Loving myself means that I am worth this work.
It’s not only about that one transgression but about so many tiny deaths along the way. It still hurts. It wasn’t the first time my body had been violated in a traumatizing way. Actually there have been multiple times from childhood to adulthood. If I am being honest about my story I have to be honest about that. It wasn’t the first time, it was just the worst time.
The more we repress our memories, the more we try to forget things that happened to us, the more power we give away. The more those memories eat away at our brains, because they don’t go away when we bury them. There are so many people being diagnosed with a range of mental disorders and prescribed medications when maybe it’s possible they just have the untreated stress of a lifetime of traumatic experiences that they have never had the time, space or ability to heal from.
I made peace with myself a million times and a million more times I will go back and do it again when more layers have been uncovered. What has given me most peace are my own efforts toward self care, self love and self expression. It can be an emotional roller coaster; sometimes I cry at random and I just let the tears flow out, knowing that it’s part of my body’s natural detoxification process. Doing yoga has been an opportunity for me to reconnect with my body in a positive way, drawing on ancient knowledge to get my healing energy flowing through every part of my body. Writing allows me to get these thoughts off my chest, whether I translate them into a poem to share with others or I put it into a private journal. Meditation, breath exercises, and self healing modalities help quiet my mind and put me back in touch with my body when my brain is disconnecting. I have been able to use crystals very powerfully to pull out buried emotions and unhealthy emotional patterns so that I can deal with them. I have been able to heal through detoxing and cleansing with healthy foods, taking plenty of detox baths and working on balancing my internal organs. This healing work has helped me to inhabit my body more fully, feeling safer in my surroundings and more at peace with myself. Talking to a counselor or taking anti-depressants wasn’t an option for me, and I am happy and fulfilled with the holistic healing route that I took.
I first blamed and hated myself, but now I know better. I always knew I would write this someday. I lived through it and I am still here. I am not going anywhere. I found the strength to ask for support and in turn I support all survivors of sexual assault, no questions asked. For everyone out there who has experienced a violation of your body, I hope you can find peace of mind, comfort, love and understanding. I hope you know that you are not alone in this, I hope you take the space you need to heal, and if no one else is around to tell you then let me say it: It wasn’t your fault.
I would like to share my story and my holistic techniques for healing with others. If you would like me to come speak or conduct a workshop at your school, university, community center, conference or event, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org